US senator John McCain arrived in Kashmir on Tuesday just two days after visiting Pakistan and meeting its top political leadership, including Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari.
McCain, who was a presidential candidate in the previous US polls, arrived in Srinagar in a special US plan on Tuesday. The US senator's visit has come as a shot in the arm of the chief minister Omar Abdullah-led J-K government as the republican leader avoided meeting any separatist leaders, including moderate Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.
The Mirwaiz, who seeks the US intervention in the Kashmir problem, has been for years now harping on "use of US good offices to push India into a dialogue to resolve the problem". The Mirwaiz was unavailable for his comments.
McCain, at present a member of the US Senate Armed Services Committee and ardent opponent of troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, met governor NN Vohra earlier in the day.
"During the wide ranging discussions lasting for about two hours, McCain and the state governor exchanged views on various important issues of mutual interest," said a Raj Bhawan spokesman without divulging details of the contents of the discussion.
Significantly, the meeting was attended by top army official, including Northern Army Commander Lt General K. T. Parnaik and Corps Commander, XV Corps Lt. General SA Hasnain.
The Republican leader, who went for sightseeing on the banks of Dal Lake, also met Abdullah in the afternoon at his residence. Both engaged in a discussion about the prevailing ground situation in Kashmir and the security scenario.
Hardline Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani downplayed the US senator's decision not meet separatists. "India is trying to use its influence over the US. The senator visiting Kashmir and not meeting freedom fighters is not bothering. Our struggle is just and for the basic right to self-determination, which has been snatched and suppressed at the gun point by India," said Geelani.
Geelani said "it's moral responsibility upon the US to support genuine people's movement and the majority sentiment of the people of Kashmir if it claims to be a democracy". "Whether the US support us or not, we will continue our struggle for justice and for right to self determination," said Geelani.
McCain is scheduled to visit a temple tomorrow in Srinagar and will leave thereafter.